The Culture of Gwalior is characterized with a fine composite of Bundeli and Braj cultures wherein the indigenous religious, historical, architectural and artistic bequest of Gwalior is reflected through its illustrious tradition of art, music, dance, poetry and festivals.
Music: Gwalior; ‘the City of Music’ and the felicitous land of Tansen and Baiju Bawra boasts of its unsurpassed standing in the domain of the ‘Hindustani Classical Music’. Tansen; the Father of the Indian Classical Music who blossomed in the Court of Akbar as the greatest musician, composer, vocalist and instrumentalist of India was born in a town near Gwalior and was also buried in Gwalior after his demise. Gwalior City celebrates the Tansen Music Festival every year in the honor of this most luminous star in the firmament of Indian Classical Music. The legendary classical singer of India - Baiju Bawra lived in Gwalior and prospered under the patronage of King Man Singh Tomar. Ghulam Ali Khan Bangash was an eminent court musician of Gwalior whose grandson Ustad Amjad Ali Khan has attained worldwide fame for his excellence in the field of ‘Sarod Vadan’.
The Gwalior Gharana emerged and developed during the reign of Emperor Akbar which happens to be one of the oldest Khayal Gharanas and most of the Classical Indian Musicians owe their trend and approach to the Gwalior Gharana. Dhrupad; the oldest musical tradition of India still in use is a vocal genre that was propagated and patronized during the supremacy of Raja Man Singh Tomar.
Dance: Gwalior boasts of its vivid lineage of performing arts which eloquently reflect the rich tradition and vibrant culture of the local inhabitants of this province of Bundelkhand. Different dances of Gwalior represent the distinct aspects of the dynamic socio-cultural demeanor of Gwalior. Some of the dances are based on the ethnic folk traditions while others are grounded upon the contemporary mode of expression. Ahiri, Baredi or Yadav and Sahara are the three chief dance forms of Gwalior.
Ahiri Dance is a popular folk dance of Gwalior that is essentially performed by the cattle herding groups including the communities like Ahir, Baredi, Gwala, Rawat and Raut. These ethnic groups believe themselves to be the descendents of Lord Krishna and perform the Ahiri Dance on all the religious and festive occasions.
Baredi or Yadav Dance has become an integral part of the Diwali Festival of the Bundelkhand region when this dance is performed from the first day of Diwali till the Kartik Purnima Day. The songs are sung by the dancers in question answer form and they dance in circle to the tunes of dholak, mrudang, manzira, jhanz, ramtula and dhapli. The performers wear Dhotis up to the length of knee, short top and a turban and decorate themselves with the peacock feathers.
Sahara Dance is mainly performed by the tribal people those dwell in forest areas and earn out of agricultural and natural jungle products. There are various types of Sahara Dances namely Lur, Langhi, Dul Dul Ghori, etc. wherein Lur Dance is performed at the time of wedding, while the rest two are exclusively performed by men flocks.
Folk Poets: Gwalior also basks in the glory of its aesthetic endowment of folk poetry wherein the grand history of Gwalior is depicted through verses and wise & philosophical doctrines are also conveyed through the medium of poetry. Ghag and Jagnik are the two most preeminent folk poets of Gwalior who are still eulogized for their precious contribution in the discipline of folk songs. Jagnik flourished in 11th and 12th century AD who is treasured for its biographies of Alha Khan and Parmal Raso where he has graphically described the grandeur of the folk warriors of that era. Ghag was patronized by the Mughal Court who is noted for its satirical humor and his simple and witty writings.
Festivals: Gwalior celebrates all the Indian Festivals including Makara Sankranti, Holi, Rang Panchami, Gudi Padwa, Nag-Panchmi, Rakhi, Ganesh Utsav, Navaratri, Dussehra, Durga Puja, Diwali, Mahavir Jayanti, Ahilya Utsav, Eid-ul-Fitr, Christmas, etc with incomparable passion and enthusiasm. However, the most noteworthy festival exclusive to the Gwalior Culture is the ‘Tansen Sangeet Samaroh’ i.e. Tansen Music Festival annually celebrated at the tomb of Tansen.
Tansen Music Festival organized by the Madhya Pradesh State Government in collaboration with the Department of Culture provides a platform to the artists and musicians to showcase their talents and earn immense praise and repute. Musicians and singers from all over the country congregate at Gwalior on the occasion of this music carnival and present vocal as well as instrumental performances in front of the music lovers gathered here from far and wide. Tansen Music Festival is honored to be the only musical show of India that continues for several days and nights. Dating back to 1930s, this music festival celebrated in the month of December offers a real treat to the eyes and ears of the lovers and admirers of music.
Handicraft: Gwalior is also commended for its Papier Mache Artifacts, Leather Work and Hand Woven Carpets. Tourists make it a point to buy Chanderi & Maheswari Saris, Tussar & Kosa Silk, Lacquer Ware, Dolls, Dokra Statuettes, Ethnic Ornaments, Wall Hangings, Handmade Carpets, Tribal Jewelry, Hand-Woven Saris, Other Fabrics, etc. from here.